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30 November 2008
THREE CHEERS FOR THE RECESSION rewarded with huge consumer interest.
“The signs are definitely positive,” says Waseem Here in the UAE, even the real estate companies—
Afzal, associate director at OMD Digital in Dubai. previously among the chief offenders when it came
“The market share might be small at the moment, to deploying wasteful marketing methods, according
but it’s growing rapidly - often at a quicker pace than to Tuqan Tuqan—have begun to realise what the
in western countries. While in the past there was internet can do for them, with behemoths such as
Regional clients who doubt the potential of online
hesitation among clients over whether they should
marketing to deliver creativity and return on investment
be spending anything online, the question is now
should take a look at some of the work that’s already
how much they should be spending online and that
A lot of agencies here are been produced in the region.
spend is only going to increase in the future. opening a digital office
Leo Burnett Dubai’s campaign for Nando’s Kuwait
“This part of the market is starting from a very low
because they have to, not
is an excellent example of how the web can be used to
base, but the forecasts for the next two or three years
engage consumers with your brand. The agency created
show that most major brands in the region will be
because they want to or a character called Fred The Chicken—a hip-hop loving
increasing their online spend.” because they believe in it.
loser, who’s sole dream was to end his life as a Nando’s
No conversation about matters economic at the
chicken. He was cruelly turned down, and turned into a
moment can avoid the issue of the current global Nakheel, Emaar and Tatweer all increasing their
blogging activist and YouTube star advocating Chicken
downturn, and the financial cataclysm gripping online spend in recent years.
Power and the end of chicken discrimination. His cam-
the world doubtless looms large in the thinking of The momentum may have taken some time to
paign was proving popular—with hundreds of comments
online agencies. gather pace, but there appears to be little doubt
on the blog and his videos—before Fred’s untimely assas-
Schadenfreude might not exactly be the right that the online experts will soon have their moment
sination at one of his rallies.
word for it, but you certainly get the sense from in the sun. Perhaps then, they will get around to
speaking to people like Tuqan Tuqan and Afzal that fighting each other for a bigger share in the growing
a prolonged period of belt-tightening may well be market, but for now a spirit of cooperation appears
just be the catalyst for a disassembling of to have been fostered—in stark relief to the
the entrenched opinions that have dog-eat-dog aspects of other parts of
hampered the online medium the advertising industry.
in the past. “It’s because we really
“One advantage of believe in it,” explains
the current economic Tuqan Tuqan. “This part
downturn is the fact of the industry will only
that the era of stupid get bigger and better
marketing appears and we welcome
to be over in the innovation and
region,” agrees more good people
Tuqan Tuqan. “In who can help us
the past there has educate, raise
been a culture awareness and
where clients are hopefully grow our
The fact that the region’s online marketing industry
so cash rich that piece of pie.
is still in its infancy compared to Western markets was
they haven’t had to “I think it’s all
reflected in the fact that the interactive jury at this year’s
be particularly clever about education,”
Lynx Awards felt that no entry was worthy of a Grand
about their marketing he continues. “We
Prix. However, the Gold winner, from JWT Kuwait for
and have wound up want to make online
Zain’s e-GO mobile internet device drew praise for its
spending a fortune on an integral part of media
savvy use of the web’s immediacy. Banners were placed
double newspaper wraps, buying overall. A lot of
on websites announcing an e-GO mini-site would be
bridge banners etc… methods agencies here are opening a
launched on Nov. 12, 2007 and open for just one hour.
that tend not to bring the biggest digital office because they have
When accessed before that date, a countdown was dis-
return on investment but are often used to, not because they want to or because
played, asking visitors to come back later.
in a spirit of self-aggrandisement. You know: ‘My ad they believe in it. These are businessmen and they
More than 1,500 people visited the site at the allotted
is bigger than the guy next door’s.’ are looking at the figures and saying: ‘It’s less than
time and received 50 per cent off their e-GO. 20 per cent
“But this downturn is making clients more 1 per cent media spend on digital. Why should we
of visitors registered for the service.
protective of their investment. They are beginning even bother recruiting specialists and investing
to ask questions like: Where can I get my money in the knowledge?’ The internet has grown up and
back? Where can I measure my advertising spend everybody has seen it, it’s just this part of the world
most effectively? And what’s the cheapest medium that sometimes struggles to recognise that.”
I can use? And the web comes up trumps over other The region’s occasional tendency towards myopic
mediums on virtually all these counts.” wastefulness aside, it appears that the online
Echoing Tuqan Tuqan’s sentiments, Afzal says: gospel is finally registering with marketers. It may
“The economic downturn may well be a blessing be taking longer than anticipated, but the overall
in disguise for us. Clients are going to want more message from the web-savvy evangelists seems to be
accountability for their spend and that is where the something along the lines of ‘We’ll get there’.
internet comes into its own. Plus, aside from all the “There’s a whole infrastructural change underway
other benefits that online offers, the simple fact is as well as the education of everyone who works in the
that it is substantially cheaper than other media.” industry here, so we are a little behind,” concludes
Already it’s fair to say that major clients in the Afzal. “However, we know where the established
region are cottoning on to the potential benefits online markets are headed and we do have the
of obtaining a strong online presence. In Saudi capabilities, as far as agencies are concerned, to
Arabia, where internet penetration among house- replicate those trends in the future.”
bound women is around 40 to 50 per cent, Nestlé The long wait—and the head banging—may soon
built recipe and cooking websites online and was be over.
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